Mental Health Infirmary (MHI) is a joke. As far as I’ve seen, it doesn’t work and has never worked. It’s basically a psychological torture chamber, with minimal physical torture, where we have to “earn” back all of our property privileges, rights, etc. through their unconstitutional “incentive” program. In sum, they’re punishing us for being mentally ill and they think that their punishment is what we need to cure us, even though these “punishments” are what made me crazy to begin with.
Most of these other prisoners are too far gone to be able to take any worthwhile actions against all the abuse they endure (and none of them have legal knowledge into shit like this, which places legal burden on me). I must add that the conditions here in MHI are still not quite as bad as the unconstitutional conditions that I endured in another state, but the conditions are very similar. At least the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODC) has some type of program in place to make some kind of effort to try to help people with mental illnesses, because most southern prisons don’t. I doubt that all the ODC administration here has any deliberate intentions to “torture” us (as we are being slightly tortured in MHI. After all, solitary confinement, in itself, is a form of torture, especially, when applied to the mentally ill). I think it’s mostly unintentional and that they ultimately have good intentions behind runnin’ MHI. And I say this because I know what it looks like for prison staff to deliberately torture prisoners and that’s not exactly what’s goin’ on in MHI. I just think that the ODC Administration isn’t as smart as us Maoists, when it comes to psychological treatment, criminal justice, etc. And I also don’t think they’ve been sued in federal court by somebody who knows what’s illegal in prison and what’s not. I’m gonna try to talk to their higher ups first before I go through with the lawsuits, to see if we can compromise towards a solution.
Another thing that I’ve concluded is that a lot of these prison psychologists wasted a lot of time and money on Amerikan college degrees, due to the fact that in spite of their presence in the lives of the mentally ill, they haven’t even put a dent in reducing mental illnesses amongst the masses. And now they’re wasting our time and money (money that lines their pockets) by subjecting us (sometimes by force) to their care and services, which obviously don’t work. They don’t understand the fact that only by ending oppression through socialism / communism, can we reduce mental illnesses at a significant rate and in a qualitative way (communism being the end of oppression). Oppression, and all of the traumas that come with it, causes and fuels mental illness. It’s the imperialist/capitalist society itself that is causing mass plagues of mental illness. The problem is more political then psychological. Their society is to blame for my personal mental illnesses – so I’m living proof of these facts. And their society has yet to cure me of my mental illnesses. Raising my political consciousness has had much more of a positive impact upon my mental stability. I learned this thanks to MIM Theory #9.
Life is about growth and change. A constant change is needed, or even the small pleasures that we enjoy begin to lose their excitement. Even though I don’t agree with a lot of changes, well the ones that aren’t progressive or geared to help us go forward, I still understand that their presence is needed. You see, revolution as a necessity only begins to make sense to those who have the keen insight into atrocities that make revolution a necessity. The problem we encounter is communicating this to the overwhelming majority, and those people are willing and even oftentimes unwilling participants in the progression of the things that make revolution truly a necessity.
The problem is also in how revolution is perceived. Most people equate civil disorder, small riotous acts such as killing police, kidnapping government officials etc. as the revolution itself and this is not the case. Revolution is all about complete change of society as a whole – a violent overthrow of a class dictatorship by another. In some ways, many small revolutions take place each day, but they are not what we need to move forward in good shape. Revolutionary change, to mean anything, must start with the individuals changing themselves. Without that sort of progressive conduct we cannot begin to show others the benefits of our ideals.
Another problem is that the revolution has been hijacked by non-progressive puppets who act under the guise of a revolutionary progressive apparatus. This is much like what deteriorated the power of our progressive leaders of the yesteryears. The new left of the 1960s mislead the Black Panther Party. They encouraged the Panthers to miscalculate revolutionary steps and also by convincing the Panthers that they alone were the vanguard party placed too heavy a burden on its members causing them to make mistakes and also going against the central tenant of communism – from each according to ability and to each according to its needs. Another issue was that their support was only monetary and as Malcolm advised us before
“money brings advice. Since it’s their money that will eventually carry our movement, it’s their advice we will be listening to. Eventually a Black group will end up having a white brain controlling it.”
So the Panthers became the puppet group of the new left, while those who truly waged the battle sat back and got a lot of beautiful brothers and sisters killed and in the end they withdrew their support. A similar thing is occurring now, only this time, since revolution has taken on a new character tone, message, and the leaders appear more dressed up and cute rather than the rugged edge that was characteristic of the yesteryears’ soldiers, the picture has become even more foggy and harder to slice through the deception of Oligarchs.
Another problem is that we don’t own the media outlets, newspaper firms, or even the schools that teach us the absurd and outrageous lies that pacify the brain and hinder revolution. Affirmative action helped us to send more and more blacks to college and to create HBCUs (historically black colleges/universities). But the more educated we become the more dangerous we become, and so even more efforts to conceal the truth have been created.
Basically what I’m leading up to is the fact that as revolutionaries – whether cultural, economic or spiritualist – there is so much work to do. If we let those whose political economic interests do not match ours at the bottom of the rung continue to tell us how best to revolt or change the world then we will continue to lose. What they are really doing is letting the powers that be know how we are coming that way all efforts to forestall our movement will happen before we get to make our moves. The people who have advised us before sometimes become our enemies as well. Why do you think Elijah Muhammad was so adamant about “his” ministers not saying anything about JFK? It was because those same people he called the devil is who financed his program. So he allowed Malcolm to say what he said with no warning (even though he advised all other ministers), that way Malcolm’s fall from grace was ensured.
Even this newspaper Under Lock & Key doesn’t escape scrutiny. There is no published material that is anti-government that escapes censorship. So how big is your commitment to change? Because a lot of what is published as it relates to issues pertaining to Blacks and “our place” in revolution, or how we are “supposed” to move forward seems like the same advice by the new left to the Panthers. Am I making an indictment? No, however, being as aware as I am and considering how aware you are supposed to be, I must wonder if your commitment is sincere. Especially since we are in the belly of the beast and could suffer the same fate as our fallen comrade George Jackson under the same pretextual designs by each state to prevent the disciplined practice of revolution.
As a show of your commitment, since I’m questioning it, I would like this to be printed, not to offend you but to ask brothers and sisters to question their own sincerity as well. If our commitment is not cemented by the events that we must actually change, then we are letting people co-opt our direction and that cannot happen unless they can prove with facts that their direction is more beneficial and helpful. But if that were the case wouldn’t we be a lot more further on that issue and all issues in general?
Galaxy Ruler Universal Sole Controller Allah
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade about the central role played by funding sources in the path (and splitting) of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP). And it is fair to say we have not offered a concrete solution to this. The Panthers raised funds from the masses by selling their newspaper and doing other fundraisers, as do we. The Panthers also got funds and resources from local businesses as they asserted political power in areas like Oakland. It was largely the legal repression of the state that pushed the Panthers to start branching out into their fundraising efforts among wealthy Amerikan celebrities and such.
In practice the BPP was the vanguard of its day, with other oppressed nation formations trying to follow suit and white student/youth groups offering support. The BPP correctly encouraged similar formations and leadership to develop for other nations in the United $tates. Yet there did develop a line that the Black revolution here on occupied Turtle Island is the vanguard of the revolution globally, a line some promote to this day. While the oppressed of the world understandably put great hope in this internal force for revolution in the belly of the beast, we understand today that revolution comes from the periphery and works its way to the core. A successful revolution from within the United $tates is conceivable, but not before many successful revolutions elsewhere bring the socialist camp to a point of strength in the world again. The BPP itself reached its peak in part due to international alliances that cooled as struggle against the United $tates cooled internationally.
We also agree with this comrade that it is healthy to question the sincerity of MIM(Prisons) and whoever you choose to work with. Not to the point of paralysis, that it prevents you from working with others. But the only way we will succeed in offering effective leadership is if we receive thoughtful critique from an educated populace. That is why we are always attempting to teach how to think along with what to think. The bigger problem we have today is that there is no revolutionary leadership recruiting mass followings. People aren’t being misdirected by the funding of revolutionary organizations, they’re being misdirected by the funding of non-profits and social media platforms. At its peak, the BPP had an operating budget over $9 million in 2023 dollars(1), but even that would be nothing for the imperialists to double. Not to mention the measly MIM(Prisons) budget. Therefore, the need to address the risk described by this comrade is real and important in the longer term.
Are we sincere? committed? Hell yeah! But intentions are only a starting point. The only real measure is effectiveness. And effectiveness is no easy measure either. In our underdeveloped conditions it’d be easy to say that nothing is effective, which is why we must study other times and places to learn what effectiveness looks like and how to achieve it. The BPP of 1968 was looking pretty effective, but they did ultimately fail. “How much of that was avoidable?” and “how could it have been avoided?” are the key questions for us to attempt to answer. These are questions this comrade’s letter brings to the fore.
In another letter this comrade says we must ensure people are not committed merely to advance their own careers. We agree, and we do have an answer to that, which is anonymity. We intentionally discourage the promotion of cults of persynality, we even try to prevent people from publicly taking credit for the things they’ve done as individuals. We are one body, that takes credit for what we do as a body, and we struggle to prevent splits and offshoots.
Notes: 1. Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, 2013, Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, University of California Press: Berkeley, p. 392. and https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/1970?amount=1200000 2. get our study pack “Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary Edition” for $6 stamps or cash or work trade for more analysis of the BPP
For many months we’ve been hearing some grumblings from our readers about sky-rocketing commissary prices. Last issue we put out a call for more reports on this price inflation. But this inflation is not unique to prisons, and in recent weeks we’ve seen its impacts on the imperialists with a number of banks in the United $tates and Switzerland failing.
The cycles of boom and bust, which lead to instability, are inherent to capitalism and how it works. While the imperialists have adapted in many ways to keep things going, they can never solve these problems or prevent these cycles.
“since the prices of commissary has gone up due to inflation I think that all prisoners with jobs should be given pay rate raises to help with the new higher costs of living in the prison population. It is much harder to keep up with the financial strain. …I know that out in society whenever the cost of living goes up due to inflation so does our income and of course I am referring to low-income people – people on Social Security Income (SSI) or Social Security(SS) or struggling on Welfare. Well in prisons we don’t make anywhere near what is made on SSI or SS or even Welfare for that matter.”
"At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis President Trump warned us against price gouging but that never stopped the jail system. The criminal injustice system put people in jail for stealing but then they turn around and steal from the same people they accuse of stealing. County jails are full of homeless people, drug addicts and indigent people who have limited means or no family or friend to help provide those means, yet the canteen prices for commissary are outrageous. These same products can be bought at the Dollar store.
"For example, items such as V05 shampoo, which you can purchase at the dollar store for $1.25, commissary price is $3.99. One ramen noodle can be purchased for $0.25 at the store, will cost you $1.19 in commissary. Also a 10 pack of SweetNLow costs $0.99. For generic denture glue it’s $7 in commissary compared to $1.25 at the Dollar store. The list goes on and on. Is that not price gouging?
“Prisoners are forced to accept it. They have no choice. They have to pay it or go without. Hygiene and medications they desperately need. My question to you – how do we change this and stop jails from stealing from prisoners?”
Price gouging or extortion is common in U.$. prisons where the state allows private companies to come in and prey on prisoners and their families with legally enforce monopoly pricing systems.
A comrade in New York responded to our call with some of the price increases seen there since July 2022.
Most price increases in New York seemed to be in the 10 to 20% range. As a member of the Incarcerated Individual Liaison Committee, this comrade wrote the Deputy Superintendent about the troubles they were having with getting items on the commissary list. They responded in September 2022,
“The commissary contract allows the vendor to bid items and the price is allowed to rise (or fall) based on the real world. They are not required to lose money. Our stocking situation reflects the real world supply chain issues and inflation.”
The comrade told us,
“the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has raised the commissary buy limit from $75.00 to $90.00 to compensate for the inflation and changes to the package from home/vendor program that was implemented last year (2022).”
Unlike in the free world, not only do prisoners face limits on how much they can earn but also on how much they can spend.
Inflation is Real
Above, the NYSDOCS refers to the “real world” as being the cause of the rising prices in commissary. The fact of the matter is that inflation rates in the United $tates have been higher than we’ve seen in many decades for everyone. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in December 2021 had increased 7% year-over-year, and in December 2022 it was 6.5%. That means over two years the inflation rate is around 15% for all consumer goods. In this context, the price increases in New York commissaries look pretty typical for the economy overall. That does not mean that this is inevitable, it is only inevitable in the type of economy we live in.
And it is only if we are slaves to the capitalist market forces that we must accept these price increases on necessities for some of the poorest people in this country. Even capitalist countries use subsidies to alter the market.
Socialist China had no inflation
The Communist Party of China seized state power in 1949 after over two decades of people’s war waged against the imperialists and their Chinese lackies among the comprador bourgeoisie and landlord classes. Immediately following liberation there were speculators
“still trying to manipulate prices and stirring up waves in the economy… who ignored the repeated warnings of the People’s Government, gold and silver prices kept soaring, pushing up all other prices. So on 10 June 1949 the Stock Exchange – that centre of crime located in downtown Shanghai – was ordered to close down and 238 leading speculators were arrested and indicted. The 1,800 gold and silver coin peddlers were released on the spot after being enjoined to lead a more honest life. At one stroke, the headquarters of speculation vanished forever from Shanghai.”(1)
Unfortunately that last statement proved untrue, as the Shanghai Stock Exchange was re-established on 26 November 1990, following over a decade of capitalist restoration in China.(2) This is why China has it’s own economic woes today. But for a quarter century, China had no inflation.
During the socialist period of 1949-1976, the Communist Party never resorted to bank-note issue as a solution for fiscal problems, relying on raising production and practicing economy instead.(3) This remained true through the Korean War and periods of famine in the 1950s.(4) During the Covid-19 lockdown period the capitalist economy suffered greatly because it cannot adapt to decreases in production. The solution in the imperialist countries was for central banks to print a lot of money and give it to the capitalists as well as their labor aristocracy, to keep consumption up and prevent economic collapse. The solution to the bank collapses in recent weeks has been similar, providing more liquidity from the U.$. Federal Reserve on loan to banks that can’t cover their balance sheets.
The communist approach in China was the opposite. Rather than putting as much money out into the world as needed, and encouraging banks to loan more than they have, the Communist Party forced banks to hold most of their currency, forced agencies to keep most of their money in the banks and prohibited securities, bonds, precious metal trade and foreign currency. Remember, mortgage-backed securities were at the center of the last recession in 2008. Today we are seeing a similar crisis in high-risk loans for automobiles in the United $tates that happened for home loans in 2008.
Bond prices are at the heart of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and others. Socialist China didn’t issue bonds, because they didn’t take on federal debt.
Prior to liberation, in 1935-37, the Chinese currency was pegged to the USD. As a result, when inflation spiked in the United $tates, that inflation was amplified in China. In ULK 79 we discussed the current inflation crisis in Ghana. Because Ghana does not control its currency and does not keep out foreign currency and speculators, their currency (the Cedi) is manipulated by the imperialists. This is true across the Third World, where inflation will continue to be felt much more harshly than it is for us here in the belly of the beast.
The other problem in countries like Ghana is the foreign debt. Inflation is playing a big role here, as the USD becomes more expensive compared to local currencies, larger and larger portions of the money supplies in exploited countries are going to pay the same interest rates on loans from the imperialists. Debt forgiveness in these countries needs to occur to protect the lives of millions threatened with starvation today.
According to the World Food Program, “An expected 345.2 million people [are] projected to be food insecure in 2023 – more than double the number in 2020.”(5) The recent increase in famine is mainly in the poorest, exploited countries, and triggered by a combination of inflation, war and climate change.
We know there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. The problem is capitalism cannot be efficient enough to distribute it to places where super-exploitation occurs. And super-exploitation is necessary to maintain profit rates. Without positive profit rates, capitalism grinds to a halt.
When socialist China had actual shortages in essentials, they would ration them instead of increasing prices and making the problem worse. Then they would focus on increasing production of those essentials (rather than decreasing production like the capitalists do when there’s no profits to be had).(6) Contrast this with prisoners (and everyone else) in the United $tates who are now paying higher prices for food and other essentials because the commissary is operated on the capitalist market. The anarchy of production under capitalism means we constantly have too much or too little of various goods as individuals decide what to produce based on their own profit interests. And this is particularly noticeable when the economy starts to slow down or shows volatility as it has been lately.
Socialist China focused on production to manage and drive the economy, whereas imperialist United $tates focuses on money supply to do so. In socialist China the banks were merely a tool to manage and allocate resources to manage production for the people’s needs.
Why Banks are failing
As mentioned above, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) had a big problem due to the value of its federal bonds dropping in value. They had bought the bonds when interest rates were much lower, so as the Fed continues to increase interest rates these old bonds drop in value. They cannot cash in the bonds until their term is due and they can only sell them at a loss. Some big players began pulling their money out of the bank, perhaps related to this knowledge. Soon SVB could not cover the deposits they owed people. The U.$. government has stepped in to cover it, and now the FDIC is covering infinite deposits if your bank fails, instead of the previous limit of $250,000. This is another sign of the willingness of the imperialists to throw newly printed cash at the problem.
One interesting point here is that federal bonds are a “safe” investment. SVB didn’t fail because of garbage mortgage-backed securities as happened in 2008. So the financial system is failing firms that play it safe this time around. In addition, according to the FDIC, SVB was not in the worst situation.(7) In other words, other banks in the United $tates have worse balance sheets than SVB and will fail if there is a run on their money. “The total unrealised losses sitting on the books of all banks is currently $620bn, or 2.7% of US GDP.”(7)
The biggest failure this year, at the time of this writing, was the 165 year-old bank Credit Suisse. Meanwhile the market is jittery around many large imperialist banks with stock prices seeing big dips and credit default swaps (CDS) spiking in price. CDSs going up means other institutions are not confident these banks can pay off their debts and are charging more to insure bonds from these banks. The differing interests of these major financial institutions are beginning to show on the markets as they bet against each other.
Prisoners are on some of the most fixed budgets of any population in this country. In order to get their basic needs related to nutrition, hygiene and outside contact, prisons need to increase pay rates and limits on how much money prisoners can spend and receive from the outside. In some states these reforms have already occurred, and this is in the interests of the commissary companies, which the prison systems want to keep satisfied.
The solution to the bigger economic contradictions playing out now is obviously replacing capitalism with socialism. The report from socialist China cited above succinctly explains why this is the case. Capitalism doesn’t just put profit over the need of people and life on this planet, capitalism actually requires profit to function. When profits dry up, as we’re seeing some evidence of right now, capitalism can’t produce what people need. Of course, we’re also seeing various forms of state intervention to ensure that this does not happen by providing more money and creating profitable situations using the central banks. But these contradictions continue to exist, and different interests are acting in anarchic ways, so that state intervention cannot always work as it does in a socialist economy.
The Bay Area is the latest site of Our all out legal war against digital-mail prison profiteer Smart Communications. San Mateo County, located on the peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose, instituted the MailGuard system used by Florida-based Smart Communications in late 2021 in its county jail. The county had the second lawsuit to date brought against it for its use of the system. The first was filed last fall, which alleged (validly I’m sure) exposure of private communications between attorneys and their clients to correctional guards.
The new lawsuit filed last week by an extremely influential legal coalition including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Social Justice Legal Foundation and Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute aims to get a judge to declare the mail system has violated its subjects’ First and Fourth Amendment rights. Ultimately the aim is to order the county to stop using it and purge all retained electronic mail records. Record requests by San Jose-based civil rights group Silicon Valley De-Bug have shown scanned mail is retained and able to be accessed by jail staff for seven years according to the contract, even after a persyn has been released from jail.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an exciting addition to the legal team involved in the assault on this totalitarian surveillance system. Formed in 1990 by John Gilmore, John Perry Barlow and Mitch Kapor, this international non-profit digital rights group based in San Francisco, CA got its original financial backing from Mitch Kapor and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. The EFF has handled (and won) many high profile cases against companies like Google and Facebook, but its most famous case (its first, that also led to its creation) preserved forever in historical hacker lore, happened in early 1990 against the U.$. Secret Service for its illegal raid/search and seizure operation of Steve Jackson Games. This was one case of many happening at the time across the United $tates against alleged hackers spurred along by a state and federal task force code-named Operation Sundevil.
Steve Jackson Games was raided due to complete incompetence by Secret Service personnel who thought a handbook for a role-playing game by Steve Jackson Games called “GURPS Cyberpunk” was actually a handbook for computer crime, sort of a hacker’s version of the Anarchist’s Cookbook. The winning of this case started EFF’s promotion and defense of computer and Internet-related civil liberties.
While the case against San Mateo County’s use of Smart Communications mail system has not been decided yet, We the imprisoned lumpen can only hope that the plaintiffs which number 5 prisoners at San Mateo County Jail, several family members, and Oakland-based artists collective ABO Comix, pass up on any instantly gratifying concessions offered in settlement like what happened in the Ashker settlement in the aftermath of the California Hunger Strikes and see this lawsuit through to its glorious conclusion.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have published a series of articles in recent years addressing this new trend in complicated digital mail systems that just make communications with the outside world more difficult and more censored. Across the board the main reason given for these systems is to prevent drugs from entering prisons. A recent report from a comrade in Hughes Unit in Texas on the continued rise in fentanyl deaths from K-2 brought in by staff reiterates the hypocrisy of this claim. Meanwhile Hughes Unit remains one of the biggest censors of mail from MIM Distributors in the state of Texas.
We appreciate the focus of these organizations on the importance of connection to family and community and welcome them in the battle against Smart Communications, JPay and other digital mail vendors profiting off of prisoners and their families while imposing a surveillance state on all of us.
The Governor of California has decided to rename San Quentin “Prison” to “Rehabilitation Center.” This is just one more appeasement given to the millions of Californians who have suffered the injustice of incarceration. Politics has no more place in the justice system than religion has in government. However, the injustice system remains more political than the legislative branch.
Governor Newsom’s play at “restorative justice,” AKA rehabilitation for “some of the less dangerous criminals,” is as false as his smile. For instance, the old lady that was hypnotized as a child by Manson to commit a murder of someone famous has been granted parole (found suitable for release from prison) no less than 15 times by a board of experts in evaluating that kind of thing (Parole Board). However, Governor Newsom, who is not an expert, has taken it upon himself to deny (veto the Parole Board’s decision) each and every time!
That is only one instance where this two-faced politician has denied parole to people. This makes clear that Newsom’s notion of rehabilitation is purely symbolic. Nothing more than the smile; handshake of Satan himself.
Funny, this morning on the mainstream news, Mike Pence is accusing the Manhattan District Attorney of politicizing the law for charging a former President Trump. Funny, politics in the law? How can a prosecutor have so much power to arrest a former President of the United $tates? Funny because these same rich assholes gave that enormous power to prosecutors and police and judges when it was used to arrest the poor man. But now that it is used to arrest the rich man, it is politics?! Did these rich people really think that if they built a monster that the monster could be controlled? Did they really think that the injustice system would only be applied to hurt and kill poor people?
Pence and Trump should not be surprised now. Politics have always been part of the law for the poor man. Despite the image of a blindfold on Lady Justice, the proletariat knows all too well that the law is political. Now the injustice system monster will show its ugly belly to anyone and everyone because that is how much power the pigs have been given.
Perhaps now we can see what California Governor Newsom’s motivations are in pretending to abolish prison. Is he afraid of the monster he created? We all heard him say on T.V. that he is tired of paying the trillions of dollars his prison industrial complex eats up.
His notions of restorative justice are a little misplaced though. Rather than educate prisoners he should be defunding his prison system monster and putting the trillions back into the community – after all he can’t have his cake and eat it too. But that seems too much to ask of the Devil. He already said his rehabilitation is only for some and “not the more dangerous criminals.”
Anyone with half a brain knows that the real cause of crime is poverty. Poverty caused by the trillions of dollars going to the police and prisons and not to the community.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree that all prisoners are political. The state paints itself as being an arbiter of blind justice as this comrade states, when in reality it is the tool of one class to use against others. That is why real change requires changing the state from the hands of the bourgeoisie to that of the proletariat, not just shifting tax money around from prisons to more social services.
What’s good to all my Sisterz and Brotherz on the inside. My name is Motivation. I am a certified paralegal incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I was moved to write this article because I’ve experienced TDCJ’s arbitrary and unconstitutional censorship under Board Policy - 03.91 (BP-03.91), and I’ve also witnessed the same with other men on my unit. Therefore, I’ve filed a §1983 civil complain. See Linzale Greer V. Bryan Collier, et al., 4:21-cv-03976. So, if you are a TDCJ inmate and you are experiencing improper denials because the TDCJ claims the material contains a sexually explicit image, then here’s some information to guide you on defending your rights and legally combating BP-03.91.
Know the Policy
First and foremost, find out what the policy is and how the policy defines a “sexually explicit image.” This is easy. Just go to the law library and request BP-03.91(rev.5). For those of you who may not know, BP-03.91 was revised on 25 June 2021 by the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and the revision expanded the definition of a sexually explicit image. It essentially bans any image which depicts sexual behavior and/or is intended to sexually arouse. This means TDCJ inmates cannot possess or receive by mail any image deemed sexually explicit. In my view, this is unconstitutional because BP-03.91 is impermissible and vague, over broad, and unreasonable on its face and as applied.
You have the right to appeal
Secondly, whenever the mail room denies material, you shall be provided a sufficient notice in writing and a detailed reason for the denial. You also have the right to appeal the denial to the Director’s Review Committee (DRC) and the DRC shall render its decision within two weeks after receiving the appeal. However, if the material has been previously banned by the DRC, then the denial will be non-appealable. I don’t agree with this practice but the reality is, this is what the TDCJ does. Keep copies of all documents for your records.
Exhaust all available remedies
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires prisoner’s to “Exhaust all available remedies” within TDCJ before filing a §1983 civil complaint. What this means in some cases is that you must file a step 1 and step 2 grievance before you can go to court. Remember you must exhaust only “Available remedies” and need not exhaust “unavailable remedies.” In my opinion, there are no available remedies within the TDCJ grievance procedure concerning mail room censorship because the grievance office routinely returns inmate grievances and states that the issue is not grievable. Also TDCJ grievance procedures states that inmates may not grieve matters for which other appeal mechanisms exist. Nevertheless, you should still file a step 1 and/or step 2 to be on the safe side. Now, if your step 1 is returned because the issue is not grievable then, you do not have to file a step 2 because there are not available remedies. You can now go straight to court.
Another vital tool is conducting legal research. This is where you roll up your sleeves and get down to business. This will be your prerequisite before filing suit. I didn’t have anyone to hold my hand during my legal research process or to help me file my suit. I can admit that legal research is an arduous task, but more importantly, it’s vital before filing a complaint. However, to point you in the right direction, here’s some relevant case laws that will be important to your fight against TDCJ:
Turner V. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987)
Thornburg V. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401 (1989)
Guajardo v. Estelle, 543 F. Supp. 1373 (S.D. Tex. 1977)
Guajardo v. Estelle, 580 F.2d 748 (5th Cir. 1978)
Guajardo v. Estelle, 568 F Supp. 1354 (S.D. Tex. 1983)
The Guajardo cases specifically applies to TDCJ’s correspondence rules. It will give you historical and present insight on the promulgation of BP-03.91, and how to legally proceed to challenge it in federal court. You should also get very familiar with the PLRA because it controls prisoners litigation and the types of relief we are entitled to. The federal statue can be found at 42 U.S.C. 1997e and 28 U.S.C. 1915A9c). If you need additional case law, just ask the law library to shepardize the above cases for you, and you will find more jewelz than you can use.
Filing a §1983 Civil Complaint
After doing all of the above, your next step is to file a §1983 Civil Complaint. You can file it in either state or federal court depending on your situation. However, because you will be complaining of First Amendment violations under the U.$. Constitution, you should file in federal court. Federal court has jurisdiction over federal law. But again, depending on your case and the facts of your case, sometimes filing in state court is the better route. You will have to research this issue to decide which route fits you.
You can get two §1983 civil complaint forms from the law library. One is for you to send to the court and the other is for your copy. Remember always keep copies of everything you send to the court. The most important part of filing a complaint is stating sufficient facts, which is “enough facts to state a claim to relief.” If you do not state enough facts, there’s a chance your complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
If you can get an attorney to file your complaint that will be great. However, the reality is, the vast majority of prisoners are left to litigate pro se. So, do your homework and learn the law.
My Last Wordz
So, to all my Brotherz and Sisterz that are willing to legally fight the arbitrary censorship system nationally, I tip my hat to you all and wish you courage, patience, and persistence. Also, for those of you who are in the process and those that have already begun the process of litigation, WE are not doing this just for Us. WE are more on the front line for the voiceless and the ones that may not have the ability to STAND UP. So, I ask that WE ALL DO OUR BEST AND NOTHING LESS! Stay Blessed No Stress!
Sincerely, Motivation Equalz Elevation
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have a more extensive guide to fighting censorship that is applicable for all states that we send to anyone facing censorship of our correspondence or literature. We print the above as a concise summary with some specific info for Texas.
This is also part of an ongoing campaign among Texas prisoners to fight the rewritten BP-03.91 mentioned above. One of the lawsuits around this campaign is Martinez v. TBCJ, et al. #3:21-CV-00337. The judge has since denied to issue summons to each member of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. This is being appealed. The plaintiff is requesting more support from prisoners in TDCJ in the form of affidavits and/or unsworn declarations. These affidavits/declarations will help make the argument for a statewide injunction of BP-03.91 and can be sent to MIM(Prisons) to forward to the plaintiff.
Comrades in Indiana have recently celebrated a victory in our campaign against censorship. One comrade in particular diligently appealed repeated arbitrary and illegal incidents of censorship of mail sent to em by MIM Distributors. Ey regularly reached out to us and other organizations, and a comrade on the outside provided support in appealing these incidents on behalf of MIM Distributors. After about a year of censorship of anything with anti-imperialist political content, this comrade received eir first issue of Under Lock & Key this month. We have also been able to send em other political books and get ULK to others.
MIM(Prisons) wants to recognize the comrades in Pendleton Correctional Facility for their efforts and consistency. Victories will not be easy, and often they are few and far between. But with consistency the struggle continues, and as the oppressed are the vast majority of the world, that struggle is destined to win.
In most cases, our mail is censored for completely illegal reasons. Here are some reasons given by Pendleton in the last year for censoring our publications:
“5PT STAR ALL SEEING EYE 5” - not only does this make no sense, there was not even a star on the page cited
Many Amerikkkans are offended by that spelling, or when we say that they are not exploited by capitalism, or that they are a nation built on white supremacy, or that they they are committing atrocities against oppressed nations. But to censor something because you find it offensive is illegal in this bourgeois democracy that we live under. As our readers know, nothing MIM(Prisons) has ever written promotes hatred of other peoples or mistreatment of peoples because of who they are.
Often, when our mail is censored it is because someone finds it offensive. Therefore, consistent appeals to higher levels of government can work to have the existing laws enforced. But other times the state is behind it. This was the case in our biggest censorship battle of 2022 against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. They had system-wide bans on certain materials that we were sending in across the state because they want to prevent peaceful organizing. This is an example where bourgeois democracy is not so liberal, when even talking about a peaceful protest in prisons becomes illegal. And while we face censorship on the outside, those inside face being thrown in torture cells, and violence by staff or other prisoners.
The connection between free speech and association and this ability to protest and organize power is why we prioritize censorship as a campaign. It’s not just because those of us on the outside are being censored, it’s a strategic decision as far as what battles help create the space necessary for the organizing that we need to change the world.
So we encourage comrades to be diligent in fighting censorship, especially of political materials. And we will do our best to support you in those battles.
As I understand it, Chicano nationalism draws heavily from Indigenismo – an ideology of the settler colonial Mexican state that says that all the inhabitants of Mexico are indigenous, all are Mestizos, and so on. Such an ideology is fundamentally anti-indigenous as it seeks to indigenize Mexican settlers. The conception of Aztlan is similar – it is a land claim based on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo – land taken from Mexico during the Mexico-American war. It’s worth noting that the treaty itself distinguishes between Mexican settlers in this territory and Indigenous “savages”.
While it is true that a section of the colonized proletariat of the America is from Mexico, I am convinced that they are not members of an oppressed Chicano nation. They are more often members of Indigenous nations in Mexico displaced from their homelands.
Chicano nationalism is ultimately a form of settler nationalism. It expresses the class interests of mainly Euro-Mexican settlers against Euro-American settlers. It disguises the legitimate claims for decolonization by oppressed indigenous and African nations in Mexico and the American Southwest, by pretending that all Chicanos are descendants of ancient Aztecs. It is extremely unfortunate that this ideology has taken hold in America’s prisons by people who are not connected to Aztec/Nahua people, culture or elders.
I’m not an expert in this, I’m still learning much about it. But I’m just letting you know that the issue is a lot more complicated than it seems from the outset. There’s lots of liberal carry-over on reddit where I see people lumping all POC together and assuming they are revolutionary. Which is just not the case.
Xipe of the Communist Party of Aztlán responds:
Chican@ revolutionary nationalism has often been misunderstood. Our belief is that this is due to the Chican@ Nation not meeting its responsibility in addressing a correct political line to the ICM (International Communist Movement) on the one hand and in the ICM’s mostly incorrect analysis of the social forces within these false U.S. borders.
To be clear the CPA does not draw heavily on indigenismo – which is steeped in metaphysical trappings. We draw heavily on materialism. As materialists we recognize that not all inhabitants of Mexico are indigenous – although according to Jack Forbes most are! What’s more We disagree with your understanding that Chicano nationalism believes all are “mestizos” in Mexico, the CPA(MLM) believes that the term Mestizo is actually a label deriving from the colonizers agit/prop that strips Chican@s of many features of nationhood. “Mestizo” is anti-materialist, that as Jack Forbes suggests, is better suited to describe many of the European nations such as Italy, Sicily, etc.
Our analysis overstands that the inhabitants of current day Mexico are a combination of bloodlines that include indigenous, Spanish colonizer, African and others. And yet blood quantum don’t define a nation. We draw from Stalin on the national question for what defines a nation and we thoroughly address this in the book Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán.
It seems to many that the political line of some Chican@ cultural nationalists is interpreted as the political line of the entire nation, this is incorrect. Our stance on land does not simply derive from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, although we certainly cite this treaty in much of our agit/prop surrounding our struggle for national liberation. To rely simply on the colonizers treaty to validate our struggle for national liberation is akin to anti-imperialists within these false U.S. borders simply relying on the U.S. Constitution to validate its anti-imperialism. Although one can use the imperialists’ words and articles against them, we are not reformists who simply want our class enemies to re-word a document or follow its own law. We want a complete transformation of society and to free the tierra! Our lucha for land is for a Chicano Socialist Government not for permission from the colonizer to own acres of land under an imperialist rule.
Those who confuse Chican@ revolutionary nationalism with the settler need to study the development of nations, specifically the book Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, which includes the political line of the CPA when it comes to a nation. We ask those who are curious on our line to read the Chican@ Red Book (Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán).
Even if the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was never written our national liberation movement would be just. Chican@s developed in what is now the “U.$. Southwest” as surely as Africans developed in what is now Haiti to become Haitians. Our line is not anchored in us believing we are descendants of ancient “Aztecs” – although some actually are! We overstand that the term “Aztlán” was used 50+ years ago within the Chican@ movement as a rallying cry and point of unity for Chican@s of the time and we see the relevance of using it in our struggle today.
The state has once again kidnapped the comrade Jose Villarreal (JV) on trumped up charges. After over a decade in the deepest dungeons of Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit, JV was released to the streets in January 2017 following the historic California hunger strikes and the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) between the largest lumpen organizations in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at the time. This is the second time JV has been arrested since eir release. In addition, ey has faced armed raids by the pigs at eir place of residence.
The first arrest following eir release from Pelican Bay was on 2 August 2020 from an incident where JV may have saved someone’s life, but was charged as an accomplice instead. Eir arrest this winter was almost completely fabricated, with no basis in reality. And due to having been a certified member of a “Security Threat Group” (STG) in Pelican Bay ey faces gang enhancements on both sets of charges. Gang enhancements are a way to punish the oppressed for free association with others in their nation.
While the circumstances of the 2020 arrest are suspect, as are any when a revolutionary leader is targeted, the 2022 arrest is based on fabricated testimony rather than an actual incident. This testimony is coming from someone who presented emself as a revolutionary Chican@ nationalist. If the 2020 incident was a setup, then JV diffused it by eir righteous actions in a dangerous situation. Perhaps the state learned its lesson and decided it must fabricate charges in a he-said/she-said case.
In the six years since eir release from CDCR, JV has become most well known for eir radio program Free Aztlán on Poor News Network’s KEXU 96.1 FM in Oakland, California. Over the years JV featured Chican@ authors, researchers, artists and activists of many stripes. They advocated for the “kids in kages”, the migrant field workers, prisoners, and even did a series on the abuse of young people in spiritual movements targetting Chican@ nationalists. Ey was a regular promoter of the book Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán and the struggles for national liberation around the globe. JV also was apart of Aztlán Press, which published the second edition of Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. Listen to the CPA(MLM) announcement (starting at 8:00)
On the last episode of Free Aztlán before eir recent arrest, JV hosted the public announcement of the founding of the Communist Party of Aztlán (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). Eir track record of advocating for national liberation, and eir support of the foundation of the Party in particular, is clearly behind the state’s machinations to imprison JV once again on trumped-up charges.
While MIM(Prisons) recognizes CPA(MLM) as a fraternal organization, it is no secret that we promote a cell structure strategy of organization. We’ve received push back on this in the form of calls for a centralized organization, a movement that spans the country, and a center for training and developing scientific leadership. These are some of the things the CPA(MLM) felt that Aztlán needed. They felt a party was needed to combat/compete with the parties that now mislead the masses under bourgeois political lines.
JV’s connections to various projects, and the connections between different chapters of the Republic of Aztlán are public record on the internet. We do not promote this form of organization. We see the hybrid of online and irl (real life) organizing to favor the strengths of the state over the weaknesses of the masses.
Lest we need reminding, the repeated targeting of JV exposes the lengths to which the state will go to suppress even a young emerging movement like CPA(MLM). JV has been tireless in eir work in the Chican@ community to promote positive change. No proletarian court would convict em of a crime. A socialist justice system would uphold JV as the best-case example of what someone can make of emselves after decades in an oppressive, abusive, torturous prison system.
Pursuant to South Carolina Constitution Article I, § 1, All political power is vested in and derived from the people only, therefore, they have the right at all times to modify their form of government.
Pursuant to S.C. Const. Art. I, § 2, The General Assembly shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government or any department thereof for a redress of grievances.
The South Carolina Department Of Corrections Current Mission Statement quoted as follows:
“Protect the Public, Protect the Employees, Protect the Inmates”
Current SCDC policies, procedures, and practices serve to create an environment in direct conflict and opposition with their “Mission Statement”. Furthermore, SCDC’s “Mission Statement” should be expanded to include educational and rehabilitative goals. The entire system needs to be restructured to meet all the needs and goals effectively and efficiently. “Protection” is just one of the many needs.
The current course that the SCDC leadership is following is constantly creating a “hostile and dangerous” prison population. Continuing in this direction can only lead to disaster. This system has experienced more violent conduct and behavior in the past 12 years (remember the 2018 Lee riot) than in all the years prior, and with the current administration in place, and no incentive to promote good behavior, we can only expect the cycle to continue. [editor: the author does not provide a source to support this claim]
Security Detention (S.D.)
Pursuant to SCDC policy Op-22.38, Restrictive Housing Unit § 9.4:
“The inmate is identified as a high-risk security threat group member and has committed a level one (i) disciplinary offense, or is believed to be in a leadership position within a security threat group and has coerced another inmate(s) to commit any acts or behaviors listed in Sections 9.1-9.3 of this policy…”
As of 12 August 2022, I myself as well as many others were taken out of the general prison population and placed in Segregation (“RHU”) and reclassified as a Security Detention (“S.D.”). No one committed a level (i) offense or any disciplinary offense nor were we given a 48-hour notice informing us that we have a classification review for “S.D.”, per SCDC policy Op-22.38, § 9.7 and 9.4. SCDC Deputy Director Dennis Paterson is targeting so-called gang members, religious leaders, anyone that confidential inmates (“C.I.’s”) inform them about.
Majority of the affected prisoners are being punished for the same offence(s) twice. I myself from 2010-2017 was held in RHU as a validated STG-SD. The DDO have me as well as others back in segregation for the same thing. We haven’t committed no level 1 offense or any disciplinary infractions. So where is the evidence to support this violation?
Pursuant to Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484, 1155. ct. 2293, 132 L. Ed. 2d 418 (1995):
“the Supreme Court declared that prisoners have a liberty interest in avoiding confinement conditions that impose”atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life“…”
Also see Burnette v. Fahey, 687 F.3d 171, 180 (4th Cir. 2012); Incumaa v. Stirling, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 11321; Wilkerson v. Goodwin, 774 F.3d 845, 854 (5th Cir. 2014).
SCDC is constantly targeting gang members, religious leaders, and prisoners who have influence. SCDC either sends these prisoners out-of-state to private prisons, placed them in segregation as Security Detention, transfer them to other institutions, or SCDC also goes as far as to put propaganda on prisoners’ names so that violence can come upon them. SCDC administration has a habit of setting rules, and then applying them in ways that are in complete contradiction to each other.
Security Detention prisoners have no access to basic life necessities such as:
Proper hygiene products (only state issue hygiene)
Adequate bed lining (only a thin mattress, 1 blanket, 1 sheet)
Cells are never clean
No telephone use
Mail is limited and censored
No adequate food or nutrition
No proper medical treatment
No proper mental health treatment
Employee’s are verbally and physically assaultive
PREA Violations (Excessive strip searches, frisks, etc.)
Constant cell searches and things taken
No adequate ventilation (No heat or air)
The list can go on…
Is it not ironic that when the United States is victorious in war, the first thing they do is provide aid to our “enemies”? We do everything we can not to oppress them for fear of a future rebellion or attack. When it comes to people in prison in this country, there is no end to the oppression.
I myself demand to be released from segregation due to no evidence to support Deputy Director of Operations’ (DDO) allegations to S.D. me. Per SCDC’s own policy:
“If an individual has been validated as an STG member, but has not committed or been implicated in any disciplinary infractions or STG activities, that individual would typically, although not always, receive a classification of Validated-GP… If an individual has been validated as an STG member, and has committed disciplinary infractions, that individual would typically receive a classification of Validated-SD…”